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Le mess: French walk out

French players walk away from the field after refusing to practice. With tensions already high because of two poor games, the dismissal of teammate Nicolas Anelka put them over the edge.

Associated Press

French players walk away from the field after refusing to practice. With tensions already high because of two poor games, the dismissal of teammate Nicolas Anelka put them over the edge.

KNYSNA, South Africa — France's players refused to practice Sunday in protest of star striker Nicolas Anelka's expulsion from the team.

The walk-out came a day after Anelka was sent home for refusing to apologize for a profanity-laced tirade against coach Raymond Domenech at halftime of Thursday's 2-0 loss to Mexico.

Sunday's turbulence also led to the resignation of team director Jean-Louis Valentin.

"It's a scandal for the federation and the French team," Valentin said. "They don't want to train. It's unacceptable."

Before getting in his car, he added: "As for me, it's over. I'm leaving the federation. I'm sickened and disgusted."

Even before practice, tensions were high.

"Everyone in the whole world is mocking us now," forward Franck Ribery said in a TV interview a few hours before.

He added the players were still seeking the "traitor" who leaked details of Anelka's outburst.

Tensions boiled over after the team bus arrived at practice and players got off to greet about 200 fans. Domenech, whose tactics and management skills have been questioned, stayed on the bus to talk to captain Patrice Evra.

Meanwhile, fitness coach Robert Duverne was on the field putting down training cones. After Domenech and Evra got off the bus, Evra and Duverne started to argue. Domenech tried to intervene. But Duverne stormed off, heaving his accreditation across the field.

Soon after, the players boarded the bus and drew the curtains. Domenech then read a statement written by the players.

"The French Football Federation did not at any time try to protect the group," it read. "They took a decision uniquely based on facts reported by the press. As a consequence and to show our opposition to the decision taken by officials of the federation, all the players decided not to take part in today's training session."

No players were available for comment.

French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot said "the indignation of the French is great" and added she spoke to French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Before losing to Mexico, France tied Uruguay 0-0. France still can reach the Round of 16 by beating South Africa and Uruguay and Mexico not tying in the final games of Group A on Tuesday.

Before the World Cup, Christian Teinturier, federation vice president, objected to Domenech being coach, citing an exit in the group stage of the 2008 European championship. But he said he was stunned at Sunday's walk-out.

"I confess that I understand nothing," he said. "We're in another world here. French football is in a catastrophic situation."

fast facts

Who's in and out

in the round of 16

Netherlands, Brazil

Eliminated

Cameroon

Today's scenarios

• Brazil clinches first in Group G if Portugal and North Korea tie

• North Korea is eliminated with a loss

• The winner of Chile-Switzerland clinches a Round of 16 berth if Spain and Honduras tie

• The loser of Spain-Honduras is eliminated if Chile and Switzerland tie

Le mess: French walk out 06/20/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 21, 2010 12:52am]
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